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Rachel's Journal

Rachel's Journal August 2013

Last Post 1604 days 22 hours ago

French Open Gardens

30 August 2013 13:21:08

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This trip I made it my business to try to see some private French gardens, ones that open as part of the regional 'Rendez-Vous aux Jardins' scheme.

I made a number of phone calls and got either answering machines or found that several gardens had packed up for the year due to the effects of very hot conditions earlier this summer. Such is life!

I also wasted time trying to find a particular garden that had been marked in the wrong place on the map and was actually on the other side of the département! In the end I had to phone up and cancel that appointment. The owners were very apologetic although it was hardly their fault.

But I did make it to the garden shown in the photos.

Like gardeners the world over, the owner was as nice as anything, very pleased to see me and very happy to talk gardening. Her husband was completely bemused by my visit :)

However, from an Irish perspective, the garden was not really of a standard to be opening to the public! There was a very laissez-faire philosophy.

As I only saw the one garden, I cannot say if this was representative or not.

The garden did contain some unusual fruits. There were walnuts, persimmons, pomegranates, camellias in fruit (I didn't know they even did that!) and feijoas - not to mention plums, grapes and the usual.

And the garden also featured one of the original Hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise', gifted to the owner by M. Renault who bred this variety in his nursery in Brittany (I think she said), before the variety had been registered.

So, have a look at the album if you're interested...

Rendez-Vous aux Jardins

The photos in this journal are 1) What the lady called feijoa. Having spent some time googling, I'm not 100% convinced. Perhaps someone can advise?

2) One of the many colours in morning glories growing in her garden. They had all crossed, giving rise to some nice variants.

3) Entrance to the potager.


30 August 2013 08:25:17


Tina and Bruno recently mentioned Solanum and seeding.

I have the strangest thing this year where one bed, far away from where the original (now deceased) Solanum was planted, is covered in seedlings.

It is, of course, a good thing as when seedlings spring up they are always sturdier than ones you may have nursed in pots.

This is the biggest one, complete with flowers.

Flowering Orchid

29 August 2013 19:32:34
Flowering Orchid

Flowering Orchid

Tina got me this orchid and it's in flower for the first time.

I think I remember that it had a spent flower spike when I was given it so this will be its second flowering within a year.

It has a whopping four flower spikes!

Isn't it pretty? Thank you, Tina.



29 August 2013 12:31:56

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Hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise' is looking wonderful right now and has been for weeks! Its blooms have mutated from white to pink.

I can't say enough good things about this fabulous hydrangea. And to think - it was ousted from Myrtle's garden :O

The wife of the person minding my garden when I was away (who is not a gardener herself) was raving about this hydrangea, above all else in the garden.
I must say, I see her point.

Another one looking good now is Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa'.

I bought Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky' in France this year so I'm looking forward to seeing how that one turns out in time.


29 August 2013 12:18:23

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Dahlias are looking good right now.

Great Find

28 August 2013 23:23:30
Great Find

Great Find

When I visited my friend in France recently I wanted to see how the cutting of Streptocarpus saxorum that I had given to her was doing.

My friend had said she would root it in water and indeed she had.

The cutting was already growing good roots when I saw it but that was not the interesting thing.

The interesting thing was the holder she had for rooting cuttings in water. It was like a science lab test tube kit and I just thought it looked so stylish and novel that I had to have one too.

Well, later, in my travels in France I found one. I think it is the business!

I just wonder has anyone come across this style of cuttings holder before?

A Thing

28 August 2013 13:08:13
A Thing

A Thing

I confess, I have a thing for clay pots!

I was delighted to find that in France they have a wonderful selection of all the pot sizes, including very small.

Here's a few I picked up over there. The tallest one in the photo is 3.5"

They don't have the old-fashioned charm of the Victorian ones in my earlier journal but they were not to be missed!

When is a Tradescantia not a Tradescantia?

28 August 2013 12:14:04

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Tradescantia or Wandering Jew is usually a low maintenance house plant.

I had a dull green one so I was pleased when Fraoch offered a cutting from her fancy red-leaved one at the Christmas get-together. It's really flying it (photo 1). Thank you, Heather.

I must say that I saw so many tender versions of this plant in the various tropical greenhouse I visited this summer in England that I thought I'd seen it all.

But look at this lovely Tradescantia, or Tinantia pringlei, that Bruno gave some time ago. This one is hardy and in flower at the moment. So thank you too, Bruno.


House Plants

28 August 2013 11:54:30

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I'm so pleased that I bought this beautiful Streptocarpus in Wisley on my recent trip.

I originally wanted Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue', which had won Plant of the Year at Chelsea a few years back. And they had it. But when I saw this one, called 'Harlequin Lace', I went for it instead as I thought it was more beautiful. Of course, if I'd had space I would have taken both ;-)

The second photo shows Dendrobium bigibbum, which is just coming into flower for the second time this year.

Warning - more orchids are brewing!

Greenhouse & Stuff

27 August 2013 23:50:48

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Just back from holidays, yesterday was spent watering.

Today I finished watering the orchids and deadheaded annuals, dahlias etc

The grass cutting is also underway and the greenhouse got a tidy up.

I can't believe the growth on the tomato plants in just two weeks. My neighbour was busy picking them while we were away but we have loads left. The tomatillos had taken over half the greenhouse! But they are all tied back and looking more orderly now.

The border in front of the greenhouse (photo one) was only planted up this spring. I am very pleased with how it is turning out. Of course I've planted too closely but better that than gaps!

Amaryllis belladonna

27 August 2013 23:24:28
Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis belladonna

I think it was Andy who asked me to post a photo of this Amaryllis belladonna when in flower.

It is nice but quite similar to crinums and hippeastrums.

It is the first year it has flowered for me so I'll have to see how it pans out.

I keep this plant in a pot in a cold greenhouse.

Fantastic Offer

27 August 2013 10:32:42

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I hope some worthy garden takes advantage of this great offer in Derry on GumTree.

It is for turn-of-the last-century clay pots (500 pots for £325!!!)

The pots come from Carley's Bridge, the oldest pottery in Ireland, dating from 1600's and just around the corner from me. They stopped making terra cotta some time ago.

What a piece of history, not to mention beautiful, unique objects!

By the way, I have no connection with the seller but just thought I would pass the information on.

And, yes, I would dearly love about 50 of them for myself if, by some mad chance, anyone wanted to come in on a deal! I might even stretch to 100!

500 (approx) Vintage Terracotta Plant Pots | County Londonderry | Gumtree


26 August 2013 19:55:17

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I'm back from France, where I saw a few gardens.

More to follow.

I did miss my own garden though and it seems that the weather didn't treat it too unkindly in my absence.

Dahlias, hydrangeas, lilies and cosmos are looking just fabulous right now. Hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise is spectacular'

By chance I visited a private garden in France where the owner had an original Hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise' from the breeder, before he named it and they became commercially available.

Dalai Lama, Brown Peacock & Red Gurkha

10 August 2013 00:48:39

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Here are the nicest three of the Roscoea I have in flower at the minute.

It is a first flowering for the Dalai Lama and he's not open fully so I'll have to let you know how this bad boy turns out.

I think Brown Turkey looks great against those spent Astrantia seedheads. Their blackish colour really picks up the brown of the Roscoea stems.

And the third is Red Gurkha. It is still my favourite Roscoea. It has such a clear, deep red colour!

Some Oddments

10 August 2013 00:19:55

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Here's a miscellany of plants that I have noticed lately.

The first is this lovely trailing Dichondra 'Silver Falls', which I grew from seed. Unfortunately, between the swings and the roundabouts, I only ended up with one plant. I have since found out that it is tender. So, take a good look now, it mightn't come through the winter!

The second is Aeonium arboreum in flower. My last one died after flowering, despite advice to the contrary, so I hope this one doesn't follow suit.

The third is Amaryllis belladonna and that is a flower spike. It will be a first flowering for me. I'm looking forward to it.


10 August 2013 00:00:59
Amorphophallus nepalensis

Amorphophallus nepalensis

Hurray, I got an Amorphophallus to flower!!!

Actually, I cheated.

It was in flower when I bought it.

But it's still a triumph as far as I'm concerned.

We take them where we can get them :)

No stink so far!

New Wave - the truth

09 August 2013 22:16:19

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I have always been a fan of New Wave. Big fan!

But I was crushed with disappointment when I saw Oudolf's Border in Wisley.

The photos in the the last journal were taken in that border. And although they are beautiful, they are only pieces of the overall scheme, tiny patches in fact.

These two photos give you an idea of what the border really looked like.

I have written about this in a bit more detail in the October/November Irish Garden magazine, for anyone who is interested in my observations.

PS I've added the greenhouse section to the Wisley album, making it complete.

New Wave Planting

09 August 2013 10:29:52

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Any fans of Piet Oudolf and New Wave Planting out there?

Here are some photos I took at the big Oudolf border in Wisley.

They are gorgeous.

But before you start digging up your traditional herbaceous border, you might want to read my next journal.

RHS Wisley

08 August 2013 19:41:13

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I'm not going to spend time describing what's at the RHS Garden in Wisley because you can easily find that information on line.

Suffice it to say, it is enormous and it is the flagship for horticulture in UK so it is good.

The bits that I loved were...

1) The Traditional Herbaceous Borders. There was one absolutely enormous border and every single section of it was drool-able. I could have taken hundrends and hundrends of photos of just that border! But, you'll be glad to hear, I didn't.

2) The Alpine House. I told my son, Sam, how I sooo need an Alpine House in my life after seeing the one in Wisley. His reply was : "but you already have a greenhouse". His brother, Zak, explained : "It's like when you have a gameboy but you want a DS". I think that describes it quite well, don't you?

3) The Big Greenhouse. I love greenhouses at the best of times but this one was amazing. It had it all - orchids, nepenthes, amorphophallus, water lilies and gallons of things that I couldn't even name. It also left us less frantic than the one in Kew where we nearly had nervous breakdowns, trying not to miss sections!

But it seems that even the mighty RHS can make mistakes. Who can tell me what the label in photo 3 should really read (and this does not apply to Deborah Begley, who is the one that spotted it in the first place)???

Photos are here and the greenhouse ones will be added to this album in time...

RHS Garden Wisley

Consider the Lily

07 August 2013 17:17:21

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August is 'lily time' at Douentza and they are flowering beautifully. I love the large scented ones but will need to work on selecting more than just the white ones.

I've just realised that most of my lilies are white!

I have taken photos to show the stature of the lilies and overall impression, rather than just close ups. There are more photos in this album...

Lilies at Douentza, Aug 2013

Great Dixter

07 August 2013 15:29:28

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After reading so many books by Christopher Lloyd over the years and copying so many of his ideas, it was amazing to actually see his garden in reality.

The first impression was not good. There was a gone-over meadow in the front garden. What on earth is that about!?! And the first section of garden we came to was all-over-the-place, despite flashes of brilliance. I also didn't like how the gone-over meadow sections often came up right next to the cultivated areas and the long herbaceous border, the subject of many a book, had not been managed in the way the books suggested.

But the Tropical Garden was amazing. It did exactly what it said on the tin. The plants there were highly managed and immaculately groomed and it showed to perfection. The bananas were towers, the colour and texture contrast was amazing and the choice of plants was really exotic - I couldn't identify a goodly number of them. They even had shading over Begonia luxurians to stop the sun burning its lacy foliage.

The garden lived up to expectations from then on in. The Sunken Garden was wonderful (I think I'd mostly seen photos of this in spring before), the sections leading to it were divine and the numerous extensive pot displays were second-to-none, crammed with unusual plants at their absolute peak. Of course the lovely old hosue, with wooden beams, made a great backdrop.

So, despite a few gripes, I came away on a high from the iconic Great Dixter.

I have put up photos of Great Dixter, with as many plant names as I can muster, Elizabeth, if you want a look. The photos in this journal are from the Tropical Garden section.

The Ones that Got Away

06 August 2013 12:44:08

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Here are three plants I saw in Great Dixter, that have immediately sprung to the top of my Wish List.

The first is Manihot grahamii. I'm not sure how hardy this one is as I saw it in the Tropical Garden in Great Dixter. The leaf shape was both fascinating and mesmerising.

The second is a Roscoea of such exception colour nuance that my jaw dropped. It didn't have a cultivar name but was labelled as 'something velvet group'. Unfortunately the label was fuzzy.

The third was a tall Paris that was used in herbaceous border schemes (also in other gardens) and had great garden value, unlike its smaller woodlandy cousins. I believe it is Paris pollyphylla.

Fran the Man

05 August 2013 23:21:51
Fran the Man

Fran the Man


Sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words.



A Few Plants

05 August 2013 19:20:39
My purchases

My purchases

It's amazing what you can fit in on a RyanAir, hand luggage only flight!

I'm sure others will have more comments to make on this subject ;-)

Genus Species Cultivar Why I Bougth it
Spigelia marilandica   First purchase, new to me so had to try
Trillium vaseyi   Bulb - worth a try!
Amorphophallus nepalensis   Bulb - worth a try!
Anemonella thalictroides 'Cameo' Bulb - worth a try!
Cochicum   'Waterlily' Bulb - could do with more of these!
Veratrum californicum   Saw in Beth Chatto's & loved it
Ballota acetabulosa   Saw in Beth Chatto's & loved it
Artemisia schmidtiana   Saw in Sissinghurst & loved it
Amicia zygomeris   Previously loved & lost
Cotula hispida   Liked the look of it
Eryngium pandanifolium 'Physic Purple' I blame Deborah Begley
Roscoea   'Wisley Amethyst' From old Wish List
Tanacetum haradjanii   Saw in several gardens. Had to try.
Streptocarpus   'Harlequin Lace' Wanted the Chelsea one but this was prettier
Tiny succulent     Bought for the magnetic pot


Gardeners on Tour

05 August 2013 18:34:04
Great Dixter, Baby!

Great Dixter, Baby!

And so we're back!

After a whirlwind four days, checking out some of the best in English gardens Deborah, Kristina, Fran and myself are home.

The trip was a gardener's dream - perfect in every way. We had perfect weather, perfect company (well, I thought so anyway), there were no hitches or arguments - just the odd wind-up :) - and we managed to see more gardens than we originally scheduled to see.

I have 1,530 photos to sift through, discard and edit so this will take me a few weeks. But they will come eventually, together with my observations and some of the dirt :)

Happy Days. Oh, and I bought a few plants too ;-)


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